In part one of our Zero To Hero: How To Hustle For DJ/Producer Success series we covered seven micro income streams to keep cash coming in while you pursue your DJ/producing, and in Part 2 we talked about how you can get noticed online by putting out killer content.
Today we’re going to focus on defining and creating your DJ/producer brand. Branding lets you control how you want people to perceive you, and it’s become so crucial in today’s social media-driven age: many DJs rely on the strength of their brands to command higher fees, to get them the choice slots in front of the most discerning audiences, and to form lucrative tie-ups with other brands who want to associate with them.
In other words, your brand essentially becomes who you are in the minds of people, and if it’s a hazy or even an inaccurate representation of yourself, it’s going to be a rougher ride moving forward because it will be confusing for you and for your potential fans.
Here are four steps to get started on developing your DJ/producer brand.
1. Identify and define what it is that you stand for
The more creative work you put out into the world, whether they come in the form of mixtapes, tracks, podcasts or blog posts, the more you begin to realise what it is you’re about and what you stand for. You also gain more insight into your creative personality which you can then use as starting points for developing your DJ/producer brand. Do you want to be known as a serious, brooding electronic artist who looks like he or she calls Berlin home? Maybe you’d want to be known as a high-energy post-EDM DJ who plays for “bros” and frat-parties? Get clear on what you want and stick to it.
Contrary to popular belief, branding (and marketing by extension) isn’t really about “selling your soul” or vapid self-promotion. It’s about being honest about who you are and figuring out how you want to present that honest portrayal of yourself to the world.
It helps to get these down in writing: pull up a new document or get a sheet of paper and write down what it is you stand for (eg partying, “educating” a crowd on the finer points of underground techno, pushing boundaries in identity / gender / race / beliefs and so on). These will become the basis of your “DJ/producer credo” that you can turn to time and again when you feel like you’re lost artistically, or when you aren’t sure what to do next in your career.
2. Align your brand with your personal values
We live in a world dominated by fake headlines and fake people. It’s so easy to manufacture a persona these days – just create a new Facebook / Instagram / Twitter account. That’s why authenticity has never been more important. Whatever you decide on, it’s crucial that your DJ brand is in alignment with your personality and artistic values: the more congruent they are with each other, the stronger your brand becomes.
In other words, being a sober vegan minimalist in real life while projecting a party hard, “turnt” and excessive lifestyle DJ brand isn’t a good idea.
3. Develop a strong, memorable visual aesthetic
Once you’ve dug deep to uncover what you stand for and what your values are, try to weave them into the visual aspects of your identity. The biggest DJ/producers are also the most recognisable, and this isn’t by accident. Think of deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin… the list goes on. Each of them has a unique “look” to them which they’ve cultivated through the years: the mouse hat, the party cakes, the aviator shades, and the black shirt respectively.
Look up your favourite DJs and you’ll find that their aesthetic bleeds into all aspects of their creative work, including their graphics on their Facebook Pages, album art for their mixtapes and releases, and so on. Try to emulate this with your own DJ/producer brand by defining what your overall aesthetic is, and making that present in the graphics and in your photos on your social media profiles.
Here’s a great way to test the strength of your “look”: if a stranger can identify you based on a graphic or photo without your name on it, that’s when you know you’re working with a strong visual aesthetic.
4. Work even harder on your music
Last but not the least, you’ve still got to put the work in to get better at both DJing and producing. It doesn’t mean you can leave the music aspect just because you’ve got a spiffy Facebook Page and your Instagram followers are swelling. Lots of new DJ/producers make this mistake, thinking that their brand will carry them all the way through – it may get them somewhere, but in the long run it won’t take them far if their DJing isn’t up to par, or if their productions are forgettable. The bottom line is you’re a DJ/producer, so it has to be about the music at the end of the day.
So we just covered four steps to identifying, defining and developing your DJ/producer brand. Spend some time going through them and make sure that you get it all in writing so that you can revisit and refine it as you progress in your career.
In the next article we’re going to explore the types of content you can create for Facebook that will get your page eyeballs and engagement, and we’ll also check out some successful Pages that you can emulate in your own.